By Amanda Cardini, Editor-in-Chief
It was a warm day in Arizona, despite the fact that October had already arrived. The dirt road I was winding down was deserted, not a human or animal in sight. It may have seemed ominous if it wasn’t for how brightly the sun shone that day.
My destination was out of sight as well, even though I was anticipating a large building. The dirt road kept winding its way deeper into the desert, closer to the mountains, and still I could not see the facilities. After a good ten minutes, finally the road began to rise, leading me to higher ground where I received my first glimpse – a massive white structure stuck out like a bright beam of light against the brown, desert landscape. It was still a considerable distance away, and I wondered why. This too may have given a sense of foreboding if I wasn’t so mesmerized. The structure took different forms in its various sections, and it was fascinating to behold. One area rose into a kind of pyramid, while others were perfectly symmetrical domes. Yet another was long and rectangular. Almost all of it was made out of glass, held together by white steel frames.
I pulled forward, eventually finding myself in a parking lot. I parked, stepped outside the car, and took a minute to fully look at the massive construction before me. It was in this moment that I felt my first sense of something being off. I couldn’t pinpoint the reason, but it was a feeling that caused my hair to stand on end. I took a deep breath, reminded myself why I was here, and took my first steps towards the entrance building.
If only I had listened to that feeling and retreated then.
A door that seemed like it belonged on a spaceship led inside; it was white, with a circular wheel in the center. I turned the wheel, pulled it open, and found myself in an airlock chamber; which only intensified the feeling that I was boarding a spaceship. I opened the second door on the other end of the airlock chamber, walked through, and found myself in a long, metal hallway. There were no doors leading off of it, no pictures or signs on the walls, only rivets and metal plates holding the place together. At the very end, opposite of the door I had just entered, was a small podium next to the only door. I walked towards it rather quickly (something about that hallway felt claustrophobic – perhaps yet another sign I should have recognized of what was to come) and as I approached a man stepped out from the door, taking his place behind the podium.
He was an older man, of at least 65, with white hair and a large, friendly belly. He even had a kind smile, though he looked exhausted.
“Welcome,” he said with a smile so big you could see almost all of his teeth. “Can I get your name?”
I introduced myself, and he quickly started typing on a keyboard out of sight. Then he reached down and fumbled for a minute, before standing back up with a headset in his hand.
“Please take this, go in with the other researchers. Someone will be with you in a moment.”
He was holding the door open for me. I took the headset, walked forward and found myself clearly under one of the domes I had seen from the outside; the ceiling curved upwards, meeting in the middle. But it was just as barren as the hallway; no windows, nothing adorning the walls, and no seating. I was not alone; many other people were scattered about the room, most looking at their phones or talking amongst themselves.
At this point my suspicions mounted to the point of full concern. In examining the room I had just entered, I couldn’t help but notice the people around me. Many of these people appeared too young, or too old to be researchers. There were about 20 of us in total, and hardly any seemed my age. Most, in fact, seemed like they were closer to the age of the man that had checked me in. There was even a family with two small kids, a boy and a girl who couldn’t be older than ten.
As an environmental researcher, I had been called here to review the current research being conducted on-site on the impact of climate change. What had all these other people been called here for?
As soon as this thought crossed my mind, a loud noise like a heavy door slamming shut echoed throughout the room, causing everyone to jump. Many people dropped whatever they were holding. Everyone looked around for the source of the noise, and I wondered if anyone else’s heart had started beating as fast mine had. The only other person in the room that appeared around my age wandered over to the door we had entered through and attempted to open it; it was locked. He looked back at the rest of the group with a quizzical look on his face.
Then a voice spoke from each of our headsets, in unison.
“Welcome, participants, to the human experiment at Biosphere 2.”
Writer’s Note: After visiting the Biosphere, I couldn’t help but take a Halloween/sci-fi spin on the place. I have so much respect for the research done there, and encourage everyone to visit.